This picture represents the artist's favorite theme of quiet village life, an image that also appealed to patrons in the bustling city of Amsterdam. Hobbema trained there with Jacob van Ruisdael during the second half of the 1650s. His paintings were extremely popular in eighteenth-century England and with American collectors of the Gilded Age (about 1870–1915).
This confidently painted panel probably dates from about 1665 and depicts Hobbema's quintessential theme of quiet village life. The small church in the right background would have been about two hundred years old in the artist's lifetime and indicates that the modest houses, although placed according to no particular plan, form the center of a rural village. The structure with a thatched roof to the left is nearing the end of its usefulness, while the brick cottage with a tiled roof to the right was probably imagined by the artist as the newest house nestled among the trees. The pen and shelter in the right foreground are probably meant for pigs. The rather crude rendering of the staffage is typical of Hobbema, as is the suggestion of midmorning or another pleasant hour of a sunny day.
In composition and execution, this panel is closely related to a group of pictures by Hobbema, a few of which are dated 1665. Two paintings bearing this date, a smaller panel (23 7/8 x 33 1/4 in.) in the Ruzicka Foundation, Zürich, and a canvas (38 x 48 in.) formerly in the Percy B. Meyer collection, London, were compared by Gerson (1947) with the MMA picture and with the undated Woody Landscape with a Road by a Cottage in the National Gallery, London. MacLaren (1960 and 1991) places the London panel before the very similar Zürich picture and then the Meyer painting, and concurs with Gerson that the MMA panel represents "a later development" within a brief period. Another panel dated 1665 that is close to the present picture is the Village among Trees (Frick Collection, New York); the Village with Water Mill among Trees (Frick Collection) and the View on a High Road (National Gallery of Art, Washington) of 1665 further reveal how Hobbema varied motifs and shifted the emphasis within the same compositional scheme. Indeed, the design dated back to 1662 (as is seen in the Wooded Road with Cottages, in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and in The Farm, in the Musée du Louvre, Paris), and was repeated in a looser, more spacious manner in two landscapes dated 1667, one in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, and the other (reversing the pattern) in the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
The paintings of 1665 reveal comparatively less emphasis on a long diagonal recession from left to right. The eye tends to rest at the main group of trees, and to wander about the middle ground. In this regard, the MMA panel is one of Hobbema's more memorable works.
Inscription: Signed (lower right): m [Ho]bb[ema]
[Thomas Emmerson, London, imported and sold to Lucy]; John Lucy, Charlecote Park, Warwickshire (by 1835); Baron Lionel de Rothschild, London (in 1878); [Sedelmeyer, Paris; cat., 1898, no. 60]; Rodolphe Kann, Paris (by 1892–d. 1905; his estate, 1905–7; cat., 1907, vol. 1, no. 46; sold to Duveen); [Duveen, Paris and New York, from 1907]; Benjamin Altman, New York (by 1908–d. 1913)
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Winter Exhibition," 1878, no. 286 (lent by Baron Lionel de Rothschild).
Paris. Galerie Georges Petit. "Cent chefs-d'œuvre des écoles françaises et étrangères," June 8–?, 1892, no. 18 (as "Paysage," lent by M. Rod. Kann).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Art Treasures of the Metropolitan," November 7, 1952–September 7, 1953, no. 116.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 18, 2007–January 6, 2008, no catalogue.
John Smith. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish, and French Painters. Vol. 6, London, 1835, pp. 118–19, no. 14, as in the collection of John Lucy.
Illustrated Catalogue of 300 Paintings by Old Masters of the Dutch, Flemish, Italian, French, and English Schools. Paris, 1898, p. 74, no. 60, ill. opp. p. 74, gives provenance; as in the collection of Rodolphe Kann.
Wilhelm [von] Bode. Gemäldesammlung des Herrn Rudolf Kann in Paris. Vienna, 1900, p. IV, pl. 41.
Wilhelm [von] Bode. Gemälde-Sammlung des Herrn Rudolf Kann in Paris. Vienna, 1900, p. ?.
Émile Michel. "La Galerie de M. Rodolphe Kann (1er article)." Gazette des beaux-arts, 3rd ser., 25 (May 1901), pp. 395–96.
Alfred von Wurzbach. Niederländisches Künstler-Lexikon. Vol. 1, Vienna, 1906, p. 691, as in the Kann collection.
Catalogue of the Rodolphe Kann Collection: Pictures. Paris, 1907, vol. 1, pp. XI–XII, 47, no. 46, ill. between pp. 46 and 47.
Marcel Nicolle. "La Collection Rodolphe Kann." Revue de l'art ancien et moderne 23 (January–June 1908), p. 198, ill. p. 199.
Cornelis Hofstede de Groot. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century. Ed. Edward G. Hawke. Vol. 4, London, 1912, pp. 366–67, no. 44, gives provenance.
François Monod. "La Galerie Altman au Metropolitan Museum de New-York (2e article)." Gazette des beaux-arts, 5th ser., 8 (November 1923), p. 311.
Handbook of the Benjamin Altman Collection. 2nd ed. New York, 1928, pp. 72–73, no. 36.
Georges Broulhiet. Meindert Hobbema (1638–1709). Paris, 1938, p. 428, no. 374, ill. p. 289.
H[orst]. Gerson. "Een Hobbema van 1665." Kunsthistorische Mededelingen 2, nos. 3–4 (1947), p. 45, fig. 3.
Art Treasures of the Metropolitan: A Selection from the European and Asiatic Collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1952, p. 229, no. 116, colorpl. 116.
Theodore Rousseau Jr. "A Guide to the Picture Galleries." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 12, part 2 (January 1954), p. 3.
Neil MacLaren. The Dutch School. London, 1960, pp. 164–65 n. 4, under no. 685.
Walter Liedtke. "Dutch Paintings in America: The Collectors and Their Ideals." Great Dutch Paintings from America. Exh. cat., Mauritshuis, The Hague. Zwolle, The Netherlands, 1990, p. 48.
Neil MacLaren revised and expanded by Christopher Brown inThe Dutch School, 1600–1900. 2nd ed. London, 1991, vol. 1, pp. 175–76 n. 4, under no. 685.
Alice I. Davies. Jan van Kessel (1641-1680). Doornspijk, The Netherlands, 1992, pp. 41, 185, under no. 102, fig. 24, compares it with a work by Jan van Kessel.
Esmée Quodbach. "The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 65 (Summer 2007), p. 32.
Walter Liedtke. Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, vol. 1, pp. 149, 342–44, no. 80, colorpl. 80; vol. 2, pp. 796–97 n. 10, states that it probably dates from about 1665.